The History of Building Information Modelling

Table of Contents

What is BIM anyway? A brief summary

Building Information Modelling, or BIM for short, is a method that enables the networked planning, execution and management of buildings. It creates a digital representation, i.e. a 3D model, that contains information on the physical and functional features of a building. The information is collected centrally in one place and is thus accessible to everyone involved. The building data model, with all its information, is a reliable basis for decision-making during the entire life cycle of the building, from conception to deconstruction.

Using this working method results in numerous advantages for all stakeholders involved from different sectors, such as the construction and real estate industry or facility management. One of the main advantages of the BIM method is the central data management, because all information can be accessed from one place. This makes structured and efficient work possible. We have compiled further information on the topic of BIM for you on our BIM page.

The Emergence of Building Information Modelling

The history of BIM goes back further than some might think. The origin of Building Information Modeling is not a fixed date and not 100% clear. What is certain, however, is that it was a gradual process and constant development. Despite the many years of development and the level of knowledge, BIM is still not established everywhere today. Our recap of the story gives you an overview of what happened that made us use BIM today. Originally, BIM originated in the automotive industry. In this article, however, we will look exclusively at the field of construction.

The First Approaches to BIM

To understand the history of BIM, we need to look back to the late 1950s. In 1957, Pronto was developed by the US-American Dr. Patrick J. Hanratty. It was the first commercial software for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). A short time later, Hanratty moved on to computer-generated graphics, resulting in DAC (Design Automated by Computer) in 1961. This was the first CAM/CAD system with interactive graphics.

Further development of the systems continued steadily. In 1963, Ivan Sutherland developed the first computer-aided design (CAD) with a graphical user interface, under the name “Sketchpad”. A major breakthrough in the development of computer graphics and later for the Building Information Modelling method.

The Preliminary Model of a Database

In the mid-1970s, trained architect Charles M. Eastman published his work on a prototype called the Building Description System (BDS). It was about the idea of ​​a parametric design and high-quality, calculable 3D representations with an integrated database for visual and quantitative analyzes. He also criticized drawings for their tendency to deteriorate over time and fail to depict the building when renovations are in progress and drawings are not updated. This was followed by the term automated model checking to “check the regularity of the design”. Basically, this work was about BIM as we know it today. He designed the program that gave each user access to a sorted database. Graphical user interfaces with orthographic and perspective views were also used in the database. BDS was one of the first projects that successfully created a building database.

The Development of BIM as We Know It Today

In the 80s, more and more systems were developed, some of which were also used in construction projects. During the Cold War, computer genius Gábor Bojár smuggled Apple computers into Hungary to develop software. In 1982 he began developing ArchiCAD. Later, ArchiCAD became the first BIM-enabled software available on a PC.

The term “Building Modeling” is used for the first time in an article in 1986. The author, Robert Aish, states that working with CAD with several teams is only effective if the necessary information can be displayed appropriately for all participants. In his opinion, an integrated CAD system was a solution to facilitate the coordination and acquisition of information.

In 1992 it was only a small leap from “Building Modelling” to “Building Information Modelling” or BIM. This term was first used by G.A. van Nederveen and F. Tolman in an article in the journal “Automation in Construction”. In it, the authors explained how different models of a building are brought together by stakeholders to form a common building model.

Over the years, many programs were developed that revolutionized the BIM concept, such as the Revit program in 2000. But, BIM only achieved widespread popularity in the last decade. This is because some countries have recognized the benefits of BIM and so the method has been partially implemented in European legislation.

The Pioneers of BIM Implementation

The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden are the first countries to enforce the use of the BIM method in public projects. They have joined forces to form the non-profit organisation “buildingSMART Nordic” to promote the building of a sustainable environment. In doing so, they focus on a careful exchange and transfer of information, with consideration of international standards in the building industry. And this in both the private and public sectors. There are some far-reaching benefits from working with BIM. There are shorter construction times and costs on any construction project. The results of a build are generally predictable and the risk of a bad design is minimised. Every new building is built to be high performing and energy efficient, protecting the environment and costing less to operate. As it is mandatory to apply the BIM method to new projects, the benefits do not only apply to individual projects, but to the countries’ buildings nationwide.

How is BIM currently being used? The countries in comparison

Many countries have already successfully implemented BIM. To see exactly how BIM implementation looks here in Germany and other countries, we have compiled a comparison between Denmark, the USA and Germany.

Denmark

Many European countries, such as Denmark but also Great Britain, have been implementing large-scale projects with the digital planning method for several years. The reason for this is the strong support of the public sector in these countries. BIM has been mandatory for public projects in Denmark since 2007. As of 2011, the guidelines were expanded. The use of the BIM method is mandatory for all regional projects above a certain investment volume. With this long experience, Denmark is one of the most developed countries in the field of construction digitization.

United States of America

BIM was invented in the USA. So it stands to reason that this is the country where the use of the working method is most advanced. In the late 1990s, the American industry became aware of the importance of BIM in construction. As a result, there was a slow spread of the working method in the different states. The slow spread is due to the experimental inclination of Americans. Since there are no uniform standards related to BIM across the country, clients and contractors have different methods for each project. The disparity in standards lead to faster solutions to problems being enforced. Initially, BIM was tested on smaller projects in order to learn from them and later apply the knowledge to large projects.

In 2003, the Disney Concert Hall was considered a major pilot project for the introduction of BIM in the USA. The results were initially far behind expectations, as the building could only be opened after a 7-year delay and $174m in additional costs. They quickly learned from the mistakes, because optimisations allowed the USA to firmly establish the method and so today they can no longer do without BIM.

Today, BIM is an integral part of the US. Large government clients have been demanding the BIM method for projects for several years. Private clients are also increasingly demanding the use of BIM in projects. This makes the USA the largest market for BIM today.

Germany

The German government has also recognized the advantages of BIM, albeit rather late. It increasingly wants to rely on the digital planning method BIM in order to minimize costs and risks. Therefore, a phased plan for the introduction of the working method for all transport and infrastructure projects was adopted in 2015. The step-by-step plan includes 3 phases. The first phase, the preparatory phase, extends from 2015 to 2017. In this phase, the first pilot projects with the BIM method were launched, education and training were promoted and an effective approach to planning, building and operating with BIM was defined. From 2017 onwards, more pilot projects were systematically carried out. By the end of 2020, the third phase will also be completed so that broad implementation can be carried out. Accordingly, working with the BIM method is mandatory for new projects to be planned in the transport and infrastructure sector.

In order to bundle all results and findings from various projects, the National BIM Competence Centre was founded. It has been in operation since 2019 and is intended to facilitate a uniform and coordinated approach in infrastructure and building construction. In addition, the centre’s goal is to accelerate digitisation in construction.

In Germany, Deutsche Bahn has taken on a pioneering role in terms of working with BIM. It has been working with digital planning since 2011, long before the phased plan was used for the entire country. From 2020, all Deutsche Bahn construction projects are to be implemented with BIM. We have also already been able to carry out a project with Deutsche Bahn. We surveyed an ICE plant in order to create a digital twin. The entire project was planned using the BIM method.

Conclusion

Building Information Modelling is not a novelty that has only existed for a few years. Through the constant development of technologies and collaborative working, the planning method has matured further and is now used in so many areas. The development was influenced by many factors that make it difficult to define an exact date for the birth of BIM. It is precisely this process that makes the story so exciting.

Some countries have already been successfully implementing projects with BIM for years. Our comparison shows that Denmark and the USA are far advanced with the use of BIM. They have been able to gain a lot of experience and expand BIM implementation to other areas, such as the private sector. In comparison, Germany lags behind somewhat. But here, too, the advantages of BIM have been recognized. For example, the implementation of BIM in transport and infrastructure projects is almost complete.

We, at DiConneX are already experts in the field of BIM and have been able to successfully implement many projects. Together with the Digital Twin, we offer the ideal solution to make information of buildings visually usable. In addition, we offer various training courses on the subject of BIM. Our training courses take place both in Hamburg and in a virtual environment with VR glasses. Of course, we are also available for a personal discussion and support you in the implementation of BIM. Let us advise you and request your free initial consultation here.

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